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Monterey County in located in southwest California, and has a population of about 437,000. Its largest city and the county seat is Salinas, with approximately 163,000 residents. Prostitution and sex trafficking have posed persistent and visible problems in the community for several decades, and has generated numerous complaints from local residents and business owners.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. The Monterey County Shriff’s Office and city police departments have collaborated on efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex throughout the county. The Salinas Police Department has conducted stings targeting sex buyers since at least 2006, if not earlier. That year, SPD officers launched two street-level reversals using female undercover officers as decoys. Following their arrests, the sex buyer identities were publicized in press. In the mid-2000s, Salinas business owners proposed the idea of establishing a prostitution-exclusion zone in a “high-stroll” neighborhood, in an effort to drive out all those engaged in commercial sex activity, including the buyers and procurers. Though the proposal was drafted and discussed by city officials, it was ultimately not adopted.
In November, 2015, multiple law enforcement agencies began investigating a tip in September and served search warrants in November in five locations in King City, Greenfield and Gilroy. That led to five arrests on charges of pimping, soliciting prostitution, and aiding and abetting prostitution. Five men were arrested in South County, and their names were publicly released. Officials from the Monterey County Shriff’s Office said they believe women were trafficked from Nicaragua and Mexico by coyotes, then expected to perform sex acts to pay off their debt to traffickers. However, no charges in connection to human trafficking were initially filed, due to a lack of sufficient evidence for prosecution. Three women, all immigrants, were identified during the arrest as prostitutes, but officials could not determine whether they were victims or criminals – or some combination of both. They were not arrested. The investigation was launched in mid-September in response to a tip that came from King City PD. The team of law enforcement agencies that collaborated on this enforcement action included the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, Gonzales PD, Soledad PD, the FBI, the California Department of Justice’s United Narcotics Enforcement Team, and the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office.
- Monterey County Shriff’s Office
- Salinas Police Department
- Gonzales Police Department
- Soledad Police Department
- California Department of Justice
- United Narcotics Enforcement Team
- Monterey County District Attorney’s Office
- Community groups
Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Salinas Vice Officers Arrest 12 in Prostitution Sting,” Monterey County Herald, July 9 2006.
- “4 Arrested in Decoy Prostitute Sting,” Monterey County Herald, August 16 2006.
Proposed Prostitution Exclusion Zone:
- “Salinas Group Wants a Safer Chinatown,” Monterey County Herald, September 20 2006.
- “Prostitution Free Zone; Salinas Business Organization Looks to Drive Pimps and Hoes out of Town,” Monterey County Weekly, October 26 2006.
- “No-Hooker Corner,” Monterey County Weekly, November 16 2006.
- “Law to Curb Prostitution Presents Legal Issues, Enforcement Seen as Costly for Salinas,” Monterey County Herald, January 16 2007.
- “Officials Must Address Prostitution Problem,” Monterey County Herald, January 21 2007.
- “Your Town; Salinas; Council Rejects No-Prostitution Zone,” Monterey County Herald, May 2 2007.
Background on Sex Trafficking, Prostitution in the Area:
- “Police Really Can’t Enter This Evidence; Pandering Suspect Won’t Unlock His ‘Office,’” San Jose Mercury News, December 20 1988.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets Five Arrests,” Monterey County Herald, August 25 2004.
- “Community Wants Prostitutes to Go Away,” Monterey County Herald, June 12 2010.
- “Residents Take Back the Streets,” Monterey County Herald, June 13 2010.
- “Prostitution Sting Nabs Six in Salinas,” Monterey County Herald, June 29 2010.
- “Two Women Face Charges of Loitering,” Monterey County Herald, August 10 2010.
- “Tricks of the Trade,” Monterey County Weekly, July 21 2011.
- “Police Briefs; Salinas; Prostitution Sting Nets 11,” Monterey County Herald, November 4 2012.
- “8 Arrested in Salinas Prostitution Sting,” Monterey County Herald, December 30 2012.
- “Oldest Profession,” Monterey County Weekly, May 16 2013.
- “Oldest Profession; Authorities Say a Lack of Resources Allows Prostitution to Flourish in Salinas,” Monterey County Weekly, May 16 2013.
- https://www.ksbw.com/8-girls-rescued-from-salinas-human-trafficking-ring (2018)
- https://www.thecalifornian.com/salinas-police-four-accused-sex-trafficking-ring (2018)
- https://www.ksbw.com/man-enters-plea-monterey-county-sex-trafficking-minor-seaside (2023)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Woman, 2 Men Held in Attempted Slaying,” San Jose Mercury News, November 15 1992.
- “Prostitute, Transvestite Assaulted,” Monterey County Herald, May 3 2004.
- “Woman Robbed, Kicked out of SUV, Jailed,” Salinas Valley Adviser, November 7 2006.